The total number of persons belonging to Jacob—his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons—who came to Egypt: 66. And Joseph’s sons who were born to him in Egypt: two persons. All those of Jacob’s household who had come to Egypt: 70 persons.
A WWII veteran once remarked: “In war, life is cheap!” He had survived for weeks on the beaches of Anzio without a scratch. All of a sudden, pain erupted in his stomach. It was not an enemy shell. It was a ruptured appendix. Medics hauled him off for treatment. As he watched the mangled wounded come in, he came to realize that he was being overlooked. “I didn’t count!” he said. “I was sick, not wounded. But I knew that unless someone noticed my condition, I was going to die.”
One does not need to be neglected on a battlefield to feel that he doesn’t count for much. Bad enough if superiors act toward him in this way. Worse, if friends and family begin treating a person like this. Absolutely the worst if a person concludes that not even God notices.
A major famine was heading for Canaan in Jacob’s day. Money would do no good if there was no food to buy. So, God provided for Jacob and his family by allowing Joseph to be sold into slavery in Egypt. Years later, he could welcome his father and brothers by offering abundant food and rich pastureland.
News reports of the day would not have taken note of this one refugee family while countless others in Canaan were on the brink of starvation and death. But God noticed. He was counting these people—because they counted to him. Their number was 70!
Four hundred thirty years later, he counted them again. The time had come for his people to return to Canaan. By now, they could field an army of 603,550 (Numbers 1:46). Adding women, children, and others not able to wage war, the number was easily 2.5 million. He had not forgotten his people or the promises he had made to them. He had watched over them.
Their lives mattered.
If the Lord knows the number of the stars and calls them by name, if he notices when a bird falls from the sky, and if he has counted the hairs on our head, then we should not be surprised to learn that he kept count of the people from whom the Savior was going to come. Or, that he is keeping careful watch over us—counting our sorrows, counting our fears, counting our blessings—counting everything but our sins. For those he has removed from us as far as the east is from the west. His Son took them all away.
It matters little if we are far from home or if we are able to go home to our family every night. It makes no difference if we are sick or well, in safety or danger, awake or asleep. The Lord God keeps track of us. He watches over us. He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3).
Our lives matter.
Thousands of troops stormed the beaches of Anzio in 1943. The Lord knew each one of them. The young sergeant from Rock Springs, Wisconsin, needed not to fear. The eyes of his Lord were upon him. His life was not cheap. It had been bought with the blood of Christ. In the eyes of his Creator and Savior God, he counted dearly.
As do we.
Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, we know that you neither slumber nor sleep. At times we feel that we have been forgotten; that our needs have been overlooked. Banish our doubts and fears. Wipe out our lack of faith. We lift up our eyes to you, O Lord, for your eyes are always upon us. And since you have already counted out the days and minutes of our earthly life, keep us safe with you until we have finished our mission in life. Then lead us home. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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